For small businesses, devising and pursuing targeted PR activities may seem time-consuming and yet another expense to add to an already limited budget.
But the potential opportunities to build your brand through effective public relations should, in most cases, tilt the answer to the affirmative.
The belief that the benefits of PR are expensive and intangible “is a total misconception,” says Matthew Hayes, managing director of PR for Champions (UK) plc. “Investing in the core communication tools will enable you to reach a wider audience, which in turn increases sales, leading to greater profits that can be ploughed back into your marketing and communications activities — a simple but effective cycle that will offer rapid business growth.”
In order to generate effective PR on a limited budget, you have to get certain things right. Here are tips on strategy and execution that any small business can follow to achieve success:
Identify what’s unique about your business.
Before embarking on a PR campaign, it’s necessary to articulate how you stand out from the crowd. What do you offer that’s new to the marketplace? How does your product or service differ from the competition? What do you offer customers that they can’t get anywhere else?
Understand the needs of your target audience.
Any PR efforts that don’t specifically address the needs and concerns of your target audience are almost guaranteed to fail. The focus must be on publicizing the solutions you provide and the value you offer, rather than just how “wonderful” your business is.
Become a thought leader.
A proven (and low-budget) technique for reaching the right audience is establishing “street cred” as an industry thought leader.
“This can be accomplished by posting video tutorials about things that the company specializes in, or how-to articles on subjects related to the product or service offered,” says Megan Totka, chief editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. “Appearing to have an expert point of view can entice customers to a business website, therefore generating more web traffic and potentially driving up profits.”
Hone your ability to write press releases.
You can hire a big-budget PR firm to write press releases for you or you can acquire the skill to do it yourself. (There are plenty of online resources to get you started.) The pay-off? Enticing established media channels into sharing news about your business with their readers and followers.
“A well-written press release distributed to the proper channels can garner free exposure in a medium that is relevant to your target market,” notes Kevin Dinino, President of KCD PR. “In most cases, editorial coverage comes at no cost to the person or company being featured and goes a long way toward driving awareness of your business.”
Sharpening your sense of what’s new or unique about your business (or industry) is key to snaring the media’s attention. Consider ways to link events in the news to your products or services. Offer valuable “how-to” consumer advice (while solidifying your status as a thought leader). Check the calendar for upcoming holidays you can connect to your business offerings.
Most importantly, start thinking like an editor at a TV station or online media outlet. With a little imagination, you’ll come up with a hook that makes the press want to learn more.
Share news about your business on social media.
If you succeed in gaining media coverage, don’t be shy about sharing it on your various social media outlets. This gets some buzz going and often encourages your fans and followers to share the news with their networks. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, industry blogs — all of these platforms thrive on news, as long as it’s not blatantly self-promotional.
“Whatever your message, one of the easiest ways to do so now is online via social media,” says James McCaffrey of Sage Business Software. “Using tools like Hootsuite to schedule posts and manage your social media presence online will save you time without compromising on messaging — you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re getting consistent messages out there to spread the word!”
Related: Week Five Social Media Series: Which Social Media Sites Should I Use for My Strategy? Part Three: Networking
The good news is, there are plenty of free and low-cost strategies to promote your business. All it takes is some time, effort and a lot of creativity.
Written by Peter LaMotte is a senior vice president at LEVICK and chair of the firm’s digital communications practice.